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d20 System logo

d20 System logo

During the rush of massive market penetration by the d20 system, a lot of games were released that used the system and logo, or that were based almost 100% on the system and released under the terms of the OGL instead of the d20 system license (the difference being the ability to put character creation and advancement rules in an OGL product, but not in a d20 product).

My bookshelves are stuffed with cool games from that era, and I thought I should pimp a few of them. I’m avoiding games released during the last days of the d20 system (like Monte Cook’s World of Darkness and the Pathfinder system) and focusing on the games that came out during the true “bubble” of product releases when there were more d20 products on the shelves than anything else. A lot of these games were missed in the rush of games that hit the shelves back then. For that same reason I’m not going into the big names like the d20 release of Rokugan (the Legend of the Five Rings setting), or any of Wizards’ releases (like the Wheel of Time RPG).

I’ll be revisiting this topic a bit more every week, with more d20 games, superhero games, and my favourites of the FGU rush of odd-balls during the early days of gaming.

  • BESMd20
    Big Eyes, Small Mouth is probably the best known anime RPG system on the planet, produced by the now extinct Guardians of Order. At heart, BESMd20 gave us a full point-buy system for playing d20 games that could be used not just for anime roleplaying, but for just about any genre. The second edition of the game was also available in a very low-cost softcover release called the “stingy gamer edition” which made it particularly accessible. It covers the whole gamut of possibilities so you could create wizards, warriors, androids and even people strapped into huge power armor suits for any genre.

  • Etherscope
    About as late into the d20 bubble (or on the outside of it, really) as I’m going to go with this list, Etherscope didn’t get a lot of attention when it was first announced, but hammered home some absolute awesomeness when it came out. It’s a victorian cyberpunk style setting that really plays nicely within the d20 system. I was surprised with the elegance as well as the excellent background material provided. Having Spike Winn, once the line developer for the CyberPunk 2020 RPG write an awesome review for it also really kicked up it’s visibility.
  • Darwin’s World
    By now you know about my Gamma World love. Darwin’s World is a great d20 inheritor of that love. Less focussed on mutations and more on post-apocalyptic survival, Darwin’s World saw a lot of development during the d20 craze – from a d20 fantasy based game to an amazing complete re-write under the d20 modern rules set, the game is a massive and sexy book with a bunch of cool supplements. The only d20 post apocalyptic game that comes close is Jonathan Tweet’s Omega World mini-game.
  • DragonStar
    Promoted heavily in the pages of Dragon magazine prior to it’s release, Dragonstar was unusual in that it was a Science Fantasy setting that used the core d20 fantasy classes basically as-is, adding only one new class to handle technical material. The end result is really a very fun version of Dungeons & Dragons… in spaaaaaace! Fantasy Flight Games had a winner with this release that still sees some pretty cool fan support out there.
  • XCRAWL
    Adventures in Extreme Dungeoneering – XCrawl turned D&D into a sport. A competitive televised spectator sport set in modern America in a world where the Roman Empire had never collapsed and still had the support of the Roman pantheon. At first glance it is D&D, but with the added touch of every module being designed to be a killer romp through a very tight little dungeon and the players aren’t just looking for the treasure, but also for the opportunity to shine and bring in some big endorsement deals.
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